Thomas White, Lebrina’s Builder

He was born about 1807 in Norfolk England. Not much about his early life has been discovered by this writer, but around 1832 as a young husband, father, and skilled builder, he decided to emigrate with his wife Sarah (Coaton) and two very young children, Thomas and William, to Van Diemen’s Land, attracted by the rising fortunes of the colony and the opportunities for construction of both private and public buildings. Also aboard the ‘Thomas Laurie,’ were his sister Sarah, and brother-in-law, Henry William Seabrook. Seabrook and White had both been apprenticed to the noted London builder, Sir William Cubitt, thus both had a very strong pedigree as highly skilled builders. Another passenger, Captain Charles Swanston, given the 6 month journey, became important in the lives of White and Seabrook, by virtue of the small community of Van Diemen’s Land to which they were headed, and the opportunities for free settlers of ability and means that represented. A vigorous exchange of ideas and Antipodean dreams, would possibly have compensated for the restrictions and tedium of lengthy 19th century shipboard life.

It is noteworthy that, the year before, in 1831, another talented and adventurous passenger, John Glover, ‘The Father of Australian Landscape Painting,’ made the same journey on the Thomas Laurie; maybe it was like a 19th century “Spirit of Tasmania,” but plying between Portsmouth and Hobart Town, the journey taking 6 months rather than 12 hours, an almost ‘endless’ opportunity to ‘connect’ with fellow voyagers.

His wife, Sarah Coaton

COATON Sarah, b. 15 Nov 1807, Church St, Shoreditch d. 31 Jul 1884, New Town, Tas, Australia (Age 76 years)
Married 15 Jul 1827 St Mary, Abchurch, London, England

Thomas & Sarah’s Children

1. WHITE Thomas, b. c1830, England d. 14 Sep 1907, Hobart, Tas, Australia (Age 77 years)

2. WHITE William, b. 9 Nov 1831, England, d. 15 May 1906, Old Antimony Creek, Heathcote, Vic, Australia (Age 74 years)

3. WHITE Henry, b. 23 Aug 1833, Hobart Town, Tas, Australia, d. 6 Mar 1887, East Melbourne Gaoll, Melbourne, Vic, Australia (Age 53 years)

4. WHITE Sarah, b. 1 Apr 1835, Hobart Town, Tas, Australia , d. 16 Oct 1920, Hobart, Tas, Australia (Age 85 years)

5. WHITE George, b. 27 Nov 1836, d. 30 Jan 1919, North Hobart, Tas, Australia (Age 82 years)

6. WHITE Edward, b. 15 Jun 1838, d. 17 Jun 1930, New Town, Tas, Australia (Age 92 years)

7. WHITE Alfred, b. 5 Mar 1840, d. 8 May 1841 (Age 1 years)

8. WHITE Mary Ann, b. 5 Jan 1842, New Town, Tas, Australia , d. 16 Jun 1916, Hobart, Tas, Australia (Age 74 years)

9. WHITE Catherine Mary, b. 24 Aug 1843, New Town, Tas, Australia , d. 5 Aug 1923, 12 Brown St, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand (Age 79 years)

10. WHITE James, b. 24 Sep 1845, New Town, Tas, Australia, d. 6 Sep 1911, New Town, Tas, Australia (Age 65 years)

11. WHITE Alfred, b. 21 May 1847, New Town, Tas, Australia, d. 7 Apr 1915 (Age 67 years)

12. WHITE Robert Charles, b. 16 Oct 1848, New Town, Tas, Australia , d. 20 Jul 1910, Hobart, Tas, Australia (Age 61 years)

13. WHITE Emma Hilda, b. 22 May 1850, New Town, Tas, Australia , d. 3 Jan 1926, Strahan St, South Burnie, Tas, Australia (Age 75 years)

The Mercury Death Notice of 25th Sep 1885,
WHITE – On September 22, at his residence (Lebrina), New Town, Thomas White, builder, in the 79th year of his age. The funeral will leave his late residence, THIS AFTERNOON, at 3 o’clock. (cause of death listed as Senilis & Bronchitis)

And for his wife Sarah:

The Mercury, 31 July 1884,
WHITE – On July 30, at her late residence (Lebrina), New Town, Sarah, the beloved wife of Thomas White, builder, after a long and painful illness (unknown), in her 77th year, her funeral conducted 2nd August, 1884

Frederick R Seager – bought Lebrina after the death of his friend, Thomas White – he had become Superintendent of the New Town Charitable Institution at St John’s Park about 1879

‘A good and kind man’

Frederick married Anne Gertrude Rosa Smyth (known as Rosa) in 1874. Rosa was the daughter of Anne Smyth (nee Sales) and Richard Henry Smyth (great grandparents I think of Richard Sperring, father of Jenny Kenny). Rosa Smyth died and Seager married her sister Ada Violet Smyth, in 1909, when she was only 32 and Seager was 67. Four years later, on the 3rd May 1913, Seager died, leaving Ada a widow at only 36. She continued living at Lebrina until 1959.

The third of the three Smyth sisters, Eleanor Teresa (Nellie) Smyth, married James White, the 10th of Thomas White’s children (the builder of Lebrina), on the 30/10/1885, just a month after Thomas White died. Nellie and James White later moved into Lebrina with Ada and her mother Ann Smyth, meaning that James White once again lived in his childhood home, Lebrina.

James White died on 06/09/1911, but Lebrina continued as the family home for Frederick (until his death on 03/05/1913) and Ada Seager, Ada’s mother Ann Smyth (until her death on 18/081920 at 88 years of age) and Nellie White. James and Nellie White’s children, Brightie Coaton White, Victor Sales White and Oscar Seabrook White all lived at Lebrina with their parents too. Ada Seager (Frederick Seager’s widow) lived at Lebrina until at least 1959, another 46 years.

Oscar Seabrook White, grandson of Thomas White

Lebrina has ‘the air’ of a happy home, its patina derived from a century long association with 2 families, the Whites and the Seagers, a building that embodies their love for it and New Town, a timeless and gracious home, in a picturesque and historic suburb.

Scott Minervini, Joint Owner of Lebrina, Head Chef of Lebrina Restaurant for 26 years (December 10th 1994 until December 4th 2020)

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